“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with global implications.” That’s how Jack Hedge, the Utah Inland Port Authority’s new CEO and executive director, describes the challenge of transitioning Utah’s inland port from a lofty proposition to a working operation.
The inland port has roots in an exploratory committee organized by the governor and a decision by Salt Lake City’s mayor and city council to zone for the inland port as part of a master plan for the city’s northwest quadrant. Based on a recommendation from the feasibility study commissioned by the exploratory committee, the Utah State Legislature passed SB 234 in 2018, which created the Inland Port Authority.
Over the past year, the Inland Port Authority (IPA) board has been working to stand up the organization by establishing bylaws and policies, creating an operating budget, conducting public outreach through Envision Utah, procuring an environmental study, laying the groundwork for a business plan, and conducting a nationwide search for the port authority’s first executive director.
Now that Hedge is in place, the IPA board will transition from implementation to an oversight role while Hedge takes over the operational reigns of the organization. His first challenge is developing a business plan for the Port Authority, but he’s also focused on helping people understand what the IPA’s role is within the broader business context of shipping and logistics.
“The state has long been known as the Crossroads of the West, but we believe Utah has the potential to be the “Crossroads of the World, and the inland port can help make that happen,” he says. “The opportunity to create an advanced, global transportation and logistical hub for the next century is a unique opportunity for the state.”
Hedge says the creation of the IPA is a holistic approach to how Utah can meet the supply chain needs of industry while building upon the state’s legacy in a progressive, sustainable and thoughtful way.
“An ’inland port’ is a logistics and distribution hub located away from the coastal seaports, but in our case, the Utah Inland Port Authority does not own a single square foot of property and is not developing a particular thing,” he says. “In fact, nearly all of the 19,000-acre inland port site, located in the northwest quadrant of Salt Lake City, is privately owned and already zoned for industrial development.”
The vision for the inland port is to leverage Salt Lake City’s international airport, interstate highways and major railway freight terminal to create a shipping gateway that would attract manufacturing and distribution centers, along with their supply chains, while making it easier to export value-added goods and materials abroad.
Hedge notes that the IPA will be the steward of tax increment dollars – the difference between tax revenue gained from a property’s current assessed value and the property’s base taxable value – to promote the development of brownfield and greenfield areas, or to support ongoing growth in a sustainable way. Brownfield sites are typically former industrial or commercial sites that are not currently in use. Greenfield sites, on the other hand, are undeveloped areas that have been earmarked for commercial or industrial development.
As properties in these areas are developed and become more valuable, the tax increment generated will sustain further opportunities for development under the stewardship of the IPA.
“Our objective is to use the tax increment dollars to encourage the right kinds of development that will create jobs and grow the economy while doing it in a way that keeps the concerns of the constituent cities and other stakeholders in mind,” Hedge says. “Furthermore, there are groups out there that don’t yet feel like they have a seat at the table, or that their voices have been heard. We welcome involvement in this effort and will collaborate with all stakeholders to build the nation’s most modern, innovative and environmentally-friendly port.”
A native of Texas, Hedges comes to Utah by way of the Port of Los Angeles, where he worked as director for the past seven years. Previous to that he served as director of real estate and asset management for the Port of Tacoma.
Derek Miller, whose one-year term as the IPA’s board chair is about to conclude, describes Hedge as a world-class leader, a veteran of international business, and one who possesses key relationships with leaders in the coastal ports and logistics industry.
“Jack’s experience in Los Angeles and Tacoma will be invaluable as we guide the development of the Northwest Quadrant,” says Miller, who is CEO and president of the Salt Lake Chamber. “His knowledge will be insightful as we expand economic opportunity and international trade while mitigating the impacts to air quality, traffic congestion and recreational habitats for our great state.”
Hedge brings a strong conservation commitment to his new role and envisions a logistics center that leads the world in protecting the environment. He believes Utah’s environment and quality of life can be protected, even as the state becomes a vibrant intermodal logistics center.
“You inherit dirty logistics systems; you don’t have to build them,” says Hedge. “The transportation and logistics industries are dramatically changing how they operate, lowering their carbon footprints through new technologies and modes of operation. These industries are advancing faster than people realize. In Utah, we will develop the most advanced logistics center that supports these industry changes, drives progress and opportunity for our communities, and sets the model for the rest of the world. We will use best practices where they exist and develop them where they don’t. Combined with the latest technology, we will demonstrate how an inland port can be done and ought to be done. We will be the standard bearer for sustainability, innovation, advanced technology, and clean energy.”
Considering what the next year holds for the IPA as the board transitions to a new phase of governance and a new chair, Miller is hopeful the next chair selected by the board will be a leader from the municipal arena, someone who represents closest the citizens that will be impacted the most.
“I think it is important for our next chair to be a representative of the people,” he continues. “Someone who can work closely with Jack while keeping a finger on the pulse of our citizen stakeholders. The purpose of the inland port is to maximize economic opportunity while minimizing environmental impact, so our board chair should be closely aligned with those community interests.”